Happy Father's Day! Blessings to all of our fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, father-figures, mentors, and yes, even our spiritual fathers—priests.
Last week, we pondered on the sacrificial nature of Holy Mass. We will dive into what we are doing at Mass, but first I want to address some beneficial introductory items. There are some people who say that it doesn't matter how we worship God, that a specific ritual isn't necessary. Some say they would better worship God on their own out in nature, or at least they feel more connected to God doing that. However, God wants us to gather together on a specific day (Sunday, the Lord's Day), as a Communion of Saints, participating in a specific rite we Latin Catholics call the Mass.
In the book of Exodus, after God delivers His people from slavery in Egypt, God gives Moses meticulously and painstaking details on how to build the Ark of the Covenant, how the clothing for the priests, on ritual actions, on how sacrifice was to be offered; reading these passages reveals it is painfully obvious God is indeed interested and exacting in how we worship Him. This isn't because God is petty, insecure, or capricious, for God is perfect without our worship. God gives precise details on how to worship Him because we will fall into worshipping ourselves or some other creature without His guidance and direction.
Along with this point is the fact that we don't worship God by ourselves. We don't make up our own liturgy, ritual, or form of worship. Instead, we follow the liturgy as prescribed by the holy Catholic Church, the mystical Body of Christ, and because of that, we can be assured that we can go to Mass in another town, another state, another country and, aside from language differences, Mass is the same. This is one expression of being “catholic,” universal. Recognizing that we are universal also means we are not solitary. We have personal, but not private, relationships with Christ. As members of the mystical Body of Christ, together and not alone, we enter into the sacrifice of Christ as a family, a solidarity, a communion, and not alone.
The other introductory item is that the Mass (along with all of the sacraments) engages our senses. We are not merely a body, nor are we souls trapped in material bodies. Following the thought of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that we are the hylomorphic body and soul composition. We are both body and soul, and deprived of one or the other, we do not exist. Because we are body and soul, God engages our sense to communicate His grace and interior realities to us, and it is through our senses we communicate. This is part of the reason why we use incense, ring bells, use colorful vestments, decorate churches, use bread and wine to be transformed completely to the Body and Blood of Christ. Our whole being—body and soul—needs to be incorporated into the Mass, not only our soul.
Thinking about our senses, we may be familiar with the term “Catholic calisthenics,” referring to how we sit, stand, and kneel at Holy Mass. Standing is a posture of prayer, which is why we stand for much of our time praying at Mass. Sitting is a posture of listening, and hence, we sit during the readings and homily. Kneeling is a posture of adoration, so we kneel during the consecration, in adoration of the great work of God, the miracle accomplished before us, our Lord Jesus Christ made sacramentally present before us.
I assure you that we will delve into the specifics of Mass next week; thank you for your patience reading this series thus far. We are saints under construction, and may we allow God to continue molding us into saints. Have a great week!